Famished for falafel? For those Milwaukee
residents with hankering for hummus and other Middle Eastern foods, the city offers several appropriate restaurants. One of the joys of the broad label “Middle Eastern” is that it encompasses a rather diverse array of foods from places like Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, Iran, Egypt, and even Morocco (which is not even a true part of the Middle East). The combination of beef, lamb, and chicken with falafel, tahini, couscous, rice, and yogurt-based sauces is utterly delectable. Stews, kabobs, and pitas reign at these select Middle Eastern restaurants in Milwaukee.
1. Abu’s Restaurant
1978 N. Farwell Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Accessible from MCTS Bus Routes 30, 15, and 21
Every time I introduce someone to Abu’s, the newly impressed friend says something like, “This place is so awesome. I can’t believe I never came here before.” With only a handful of tables and a good portion of the food preparation exposed to diners, this red awning eatery is an extremely popular establishment. Abu’s opened in 1978, and you’d think they’ve barely raised the prices since then. Winning awards for their cuisine almost every year, Abu’s has a fairly extensive menu for a tiny restaurant.
First, start with a glass of rosewater lemonade. The hummus, tabouleh, lentil soup, and slightly spicy Egyptian chili (with Fava beans and lemon juice) all make excellent openers. I’ve never had a bad entrÃ?Â©e at Abu’s, but I especially recommend the shawerma dinner with saffron rice and the Manzaleh, which is a baked eggplant dish. If dining on the cheap, the combo plates are a popular way to sample the tastes. The falafel combo for one, under $6, comes with falafel, tabouleh, hummus, and baba ghanouj. For dessert, don’t forget a flaky piece of baklava – it’s more than just a Greek specialty, after all.
For a restaurant on Milwaukee’s vegetarian-friendly East Side, Abu’s has unfortunately short hours. Even on weekends, they close as early as 9:00pm, even though many folks in the neighborhood are just venturing to dinner at 8:30 or so. Also, Abu’s is not a place for large groups, so don’t come with more than four in your party. The casual, friendly atmosphere does, however, make for a super date before a movie at the Oriental Theatre a few blocks north.
202 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53203
Accessible from many MCTS Bus Routes, including 10, 12, 18, 19, 23, and 30
Because of its location on Wisconsin Avenue downtown, Aladdin is popular with the business crowd wanting a change of pace from typical fast food joints in the nearby Grand Avenue mall. Catering to this noon crowd by offering combo plates, Aladdin makes Middle Eastern food tasty, cheap, and fast. For lighter fare, try vegetarian options like baba ghanouj (eggplant) , the basic falafel pita, or tabouleh (wheat and tomato salad). For a more substantial meal, order the beef kabobs with basmati rice or the Moroccan-style chicken couscous. All these plates are well under $10. In addition to traditional Middle Eastern dishes, Aladdin also has some Indian food which blends well into the menu. The atmosphere is
not incredibly enjoyable, but the prices are so cheap and the food commands respect.
728 E. Brady Street
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Accessible from MCTS Bus Routes 15, 14, and 10
After shifting locations a few times since it originally opened on Mitchell Street, Casablanca settled in a beige Brady Street storefront during the summer of 2005. With a black awning and floor-to-ceiling doors that can be opened for on-street dining during the summer months, this place is hoping to attract patrons from the trendy pedestrian strip. Comparable to Shahrazad (#4) in cost but a little sleeker inside, Casablanca offers hookahs and a bar in addition to regular fare. The adas magroush, a carrot-tinged yellow lentil soup, is a hearty way to open your meal. Shwarma and other lambs dishes are recommended. There is also a vegetarian lunch buffet, so you can heap your plate happily with hummus for only $7. Given the restaurant’s almost nomadic history, there’s no telling how long it will last, but Middle Eastern cuisine is certainly welcome on hip Brady Street, which was sorely lacking this type of food.
2847 N. Oakland Avenue
Milwaukee, WI 53211
Accessible from MCTS Bus Routes 15 and 22
Near the intersection of Locust and Oakland, just southwest of the UWM campus, you’ll find Shahrazad. As the rival restaurant to Abu’s, this Middle Eastern eatery has quality food in a more refined atmosphere. Instead of eating at a simple table in an almost spartan setting, you will be welcomed into a well-decorated dining room by an attentive and almost fawning staff. The prices are somewhat higher than at Abu’s or Aladdin, especially for dinner. Still, Shahrazad serves up quality kebabs and standards like hummus, falafel, and baba ghanouj with reasonable tabs. If you want a more romantic setting for your Middle Eastern dining, Shahrazad is a splendid option.